Subject: The Fulfillment of the Prophecy of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
Psalm 22:16 “Dogs have surrounded Me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and feet.”
What do we mean by ‘prophecy’? It’s basically the foretelling or prediction of future events before they occur. One dictionary definition puts it this way: “miracle of knowledge, a declaration or description or representation of something future, beyond the power of human reasoning to foresee or discern.” One of the most powerful evidences for the reality of the Christian worldview over any other philosophy or religion is its assertion that prophecies were made in the past about future events that have come true.
In fact, the God of the Bible instructs each of us to pay attention to prophecy, because when they come true I will have all the evidence I need to believe that He is the true God: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and the Last; besides Me there is no other God. And who can proclaim as I do? And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44-6-8). This kind of a God should be exactly what an intellectually-minded, 21st-century American would be hoping for – a God who challenges them to examine the evidence, because the evidence is convincing.
Jesus Himself told people the same thing when He walked on this earth – that if people were searching within the Old Testament for evidence of God’s way to have eternal life, they would find convincing evidence of a future Savior that could lead them to eternal life – which was Him: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39).
One of the most convincing evidences for the truth of Jesus Christ as God who came to save mankind is found in Psalm 22:16. It is the prophecy of the crucifixion of the Savior. Last week we studied the historical fact of crucifixion, finding it was first used around 800 BC. The Psalms were written around 1,000 BC. How could the Old Testament record crucifixion before it even existed? That’s the first evidence for the God of the Bible. The second is that Psalm 22:1 spotlights a future Person who will ask “God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”. Only one Person who was crucified asked that question – Jesus Christ (Mark 15:34).
What about any controversy around our verse this week – Psalm 22:16? The Septuagint (translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek) translates the Hebrew ka’aru, “they dug,” with the Greek word w[ruxan, “they dug” or “they pierced.” This is how it appears today in all our Bibles. To validate the Septuagint translation, experts turned to the famous Psalms Scroll found in the collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, since this scroll pre-dates the Septuagint translation. Unfortunately, Psalm 22 was so damaged right at verse 16 that it could not be read. There was no way to now confirm this “piercing” passage.
But then another discovery was made – scraps from a scroll with some of the Psalms were discovered at Nachal Hever. One scrap contained the line from Psalm 22:16 with the word in question easy to decipher. The word clearly read “they dug” or “they pierced.” Here was proof that the Septuagint translators had faithfully translated the Hebrew original that was before them. Since this scrap is dated between 50-68 BC, it shows that early He brew translation of Psalm 22:16 is “they pierced My hands and feet.”
The next obvious question is who is the subject of Psalm 22:16? The preceding line says the assembly of the wicked were the ones who “dug or pierced my hands and my feet.” Since this wicked assembly is portrayed metaphorically as dogs, it makes sense to understand the verb “to dig or pierce” as describing what happened to the one who is the subject of the Psalm. This person is being portrayed in 1,000 BC as having hands and feet bloodied by the wicked assembly surrounding him. That Jesus referenced this Psalm while on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) tells us that He saw Himself as fulfilling this ancient prophecy. Jesus quoting Psalm 22’s opening line was like naming the Psalm’s title. And when He declared, “it is finished,” (John 19:30), Jesus was quoting Psalm 22’s ending: “He has done it.”
People who refuse to place their faith in Jesus Christ after they examine Psalm 22 must have really solid reasons, right? God tells us in Isaiah 48:4 one of those reasons: “I knew that you were obstinate, and your neck was an iron sinew, and your brow bronze.” Don’t be so stubborn that in the face of such clear evidence that Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross you would still refuse Him.